George and Shadow-Early Mentors
My life has been filled with many outstanding (or maybe outrageous is a better word) characters I enjoy writing about because each of them has left me with fond memories, knowledge, and maybe a bit of wisdom. Some of my favorites leave me smiling when I revisit some of their antics. For two of my high school years I worked in Martin and Price Hardware Store, just off the Shelbyville Square. George Price and Shadow Martin, the store owners, employed another young man, George Faver, as a clerk. Each of these three characters was outstanding in his own way, and each played somewhat a father role to me.
It was a rather large store with the first floor packed with every conceivable kind of hardware, appliances, and paint, and a basement where toys were sold during the Christmas season. There was hardly an empty space with merchandise stacked to and hanging from the ceiling. Every morning we moved a huge "front" out onto the sidewalk, including lawn mowers, rakes, tools, wire fencing, bicycles, and wheelbarrows. Periods when the store was void of customers were filled with a combination of maintenance and some form of entertainment. George Price was the macho type, an avid hunter and fisherman. Shadow Martin was a sportsman and avid golfer. George Faver was a 100% ladies’ man. Each of these guys had an act that could have gone on stage and together they provided non-stop entertainment for themselves, select customers, and me. Each had an endless stream of jokes to tell. They loved their work as much as their play.
George Faver had a dance routine that he mixed with impromptu verses of a mock sales pitch (that would no longer be politically acceptable) that never went the same way twice and was often created on the spot to fit the occasion.
"Step right up and see the big show.
We got hogs, dogs, fish, and frogs, hot dogs bigger'n saw logs.
We got pencils, marbles, chalk,
a little nigga’ baby old enough to talk;
got a train ticket..... won't have to walk.
Each and every item is guaranteed
not to slip, rip, or tear,
or turn up on the ends.
Ladies, strep right up; I’m gonna sell you sump’n or ‘nother
Some way or somehow.
Thank you ma’am,
What else now"
It went on and on. George made up new lines for it every day.
In another instance he was acting as a quartermaster answering the phone.
"This is fo fo fo, the quartermaster’s co. We got two by two’s, fo by foes, six by six’s, and them long, loooong muthafuckas what bends in da middle and go CHOOOO." (Refers to the following military vehicles: jeeps, pickup trucks, larger trucks and tandems with air brakes)
Shadow Martin purportedly was called "Shadow" because he had once been football star and was so fast and agile the opponents often mistook him for a shadow. He had a special place in the store where he could stand with his golf driver and do a full swing, the head of the driver passing between counters, light fixtures, and kitchenware missing by mere inches. Often the three men, like kids, made attempts to outdo each other’s antics, or to play pranks. We often threatened to place a piece of glassware into the clear path Shadow had created for his swing, but to my knowledge no one had the nerve to do that.
When the store was devoid of customers, the jokes and some of the stunts got a bit raunchy. One of the greatest faux pas occurred late one evening near closing time. We had just moved the front display inside for the night, and George Price was walking back into the store towards Shadow and me as we stood near the cash register. About half way up the aisle he stopped abruptly, hiked his leg and ripped a loud, roaring fart. He stared at us with puzzlement, as we stood in dead silence, no one even so much as cracking a smile or saying a word.
At that moment he looked around behind him and discovered his greatest nightmare. A little ole lady had walked into the store just behind him and, unbeknownst to him, had followed him up the aisle.
He immediately headed for the basement stairs, shouting, "Shadow, I need to go down and check on that new shipment." And he disappeared from sight into the basement, which was quite empty at the time, until the little ole lady had gone. I cannot remember if we sold her anything after that or not.
We kidded George about the shipment in the (empty) basement for years after that. Anytime anyone did anything wrong we threatened to send them to the basement to check on a shipment.